Monday, November 30, 2015

Ditching the Drive Thru by J. Natalie Winch : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Ditching the Drive-Thru: How to Pass Up Processed Foods, Buy Farm Fresh, and Transform Your Family's Eating Habits on a Modern Mom's Schedule

AUTHOR: J. Natalie Winch

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1943015061

GENRE: Adult Non Fiction / Food and Healthy Living


FORMAT: Digital / PDF


HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank Laura Fabiani of iRead tours for this review copy.


After an exhausting day at work, hitting the drive-thru or nuking a pre-fab meal is all too often the go-to decision for feeding a family. Cooking a meal from scratch using fresh ingredients can seem beyond the average person’s time, energy, or financial means. But with mounting evidence pointing to processed food and our industrial food system as the culprits behind many of our nation’s health problems—including obesity, diabetes, and cancer—it’s now more important than ever to be fully informed about what goes on your family’s dinner plates.

If you’re ready to take control of your food choices but don’t know the difference between grass-fed versus grain-fed, pastured versus free-range, or organic versus sustainable, read this book to discover:

• How to create your own thirty-month plan to convert your family from junk food to real food, without a revolt!
• Recipes and advice on planning and prepping meals so you can make homecooked a habit for your family
• Instructions for getting the most out of produce using techniques such as lacto-fermentation, dehydrating, and canning
• introduction to the world of farm-direct sales, including tips on locating local farms, seeing through marketing buzzwords, and shopping with CSAs Ditching the Drive-Thru exposes the insidious hold the commercial food industry has taken over the fast- paced lives of the average American and the danger these processed foods and diet plans pose to our health, environment, and emotional wellbeing.

Learn how to break free from the grind and return to a simpler relationship with food from farmers, not factories, and home- cooked meals that are created in your kitchen, not on a conveyor belt.


The cover image was the first thing that drew me to the book. The image of a squished tomato (one that has turned to ketchup) was in many ways an indicator of what this book was about. The book was small, (in PDF standards) and the text was easy to read. I have read a few books about healthy living previously and except for one that captured my heart, most books only succeded in making me even more guilty and apprehensive about what I eat daily. But still, I picked this book up in hopes that it would give me a few tips that are both healthy and not time consuming.


Books - no matter what genre they belong to, will have both die hard fans and people who dislike it for many reasons. No single book works for all people, especially one that tries to change one's habits. Food and Health books are often the most debated about. Each and every food book offers a different perspective. While the basics of healthy eating remain the same, each book differs in its approach in presenting the topic and what the author considers the best way to eat healthy. Also, while it is agreed that too many opinions confuse any normal reader, as someone who wants to make an effort and live healthy, I have the idea of reading the few food and health books that come my way and try to implement the practices that work best for me, given my geographical positioning and eating practices. So I would be justified in saying that there are a few things I learnt from this book, but this didn't have any revolutionary new thoughts, nor practices that are practical everywhere across the globe.

The concept is simple - in today's fast urban world, healthy eating practices have become almost non existent and drive throughs are preferred for both their speed and their addictive taste. Healthy eating, something that was the practice a few decades back, has become something that people need to make an effort towards. Drive thrus are conveniently placed, fast and give immediate gratification to hunger. They require little or no effort on our part but satisfy our hunger. Ditching them, and making an effort to depend more on farms rather than on processed foods and also making sure what we eat does not go through numerous, disgusting 'processing' routines has become the need of the day. This book tells you - yes, you guessed it right - how much you are going to be benefited by making this shift.

The execution or rather the presentation is flashy, with the chapters being chosen and organised carefully. A little back story keeps what would otherwise be a dull book of facts interesting. For readers who are consciously aware of the ill effects of unhealthy processed foods and are willing to make the much needed shift, this book is a good guide. But there is a huge difference between knowing that food is harmful and going in search of healthier alternatives. That needs motivation, sadly. Even though it is good for the body, most people need much more convincing to go out of their comfort bubbles in search of good food. Though the book explains this vital difference between 'good food' and 'easy food' and also points out that the incremental costs (combined with health care) of eating fast foods is much higher than eating farm fresh foods, it presents facts and ideas, but not the motivation required for people to go toward that changeover.

Overall, it is a good book, but one that requires your input to work.

  • Almost nothing about weight loss - that is not what this book is suppposed to be about. But if you follow the tips in here, that might be a very pleasant side effect.
  • The idea that changes may not occur in a few days. It needs a long term approach. Say 30 months.
  • For being clear that sometimes, even the best advocates of organic food go near processed food to save time. This was a practical thing written about in the book.

  • Very specific to the country it was written in, if you actually want to implement what it says. But if you are just reading for the tips and are confident you can find replacement in your local market, this is good to go.
  • Requires patience. Though it specifies that it is for the working mom, some changes need conscious effort and patience to get to doing it.
  • Though it talks about food, there are not very many recipes to take back. The initial push is there. But once you completely let go off salted processed food, just how much of salt you want to add is totally up to you. It is not an all inclusive recipe book. But then no book is!


Thoughtful, gives definitions to new terms in the food industry and manages to change your perspective - a little bit. A good read.

RATING: 3.5/5


J. Natalie Winch lives in southern New Jersey, not far from where she grew up, with her husband, two children, and dogs. When she isn’t mothering, teaching, grading, or making lesson plans, Natalie runs the Hebrew School at her synagogue, coaches soccer, teaches lacto-fermentation classes, writes the occasional entry for her blog Food Empowerment (, and fights the dust bunnies that threaten to take over her family room.


PRICE $6.05 for Kindle, $19.95 for Paperback


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Spotlight! Encounters : Someone is always waiting by Sumana Khan

Sumana Khan 
Someone Is Always Waiting 

Watch It 


I stare at the cement bench covered in pigeon shit and spot the dim outline of the granite slab embedded in the backrest. Years ago, when the bench was new, the granite slab was a shiny black mirror inscribed with the words ‘Dedicated to the courageous people of Thirukadal’. Four cyclones and many pigeons later, the words have disappeared. The place is so choked with weeds that the bench appears to rest on the thorny plants. Behind me, beyond a muddy track, the Bay of Bengal hisses and sighs in a treacherous language.

I look up at the sky, as if to decode the time. My watch says it is half past seven in the morning, but the sky, clotted with grey clouds, remains secretive. It could be evening as far as the heavens are concerned. A depressing form of rain is assured; the kind that only occurs in this eastern coast of South India—skies that sob continuously for forty-eight hours, increasing humidity, mosquitoes and the stench of choked drains, damp walls and wet clothes. I wonder if the sky had been just as morose on the morning of 26 December, 2004.

I tie a handkerchief around my face, covering my nose and mouth, and hack away at the weeds. Swarms of mosquitoes and flies rise in a static buzz and hover over my head like a satanic dark halo. It takes me an hour to clear a small area around the bench. The sky starts its weeping just as I scrub the bench with a coconut husk and Vim detergent powder.    

After half an hour, the granite slab gleams into existence once again. I’ve got my memorial ritual paraphernalia in a Food World plastic bag. I bring out a strand of jasmine that I loop around the granite slab, its fragrance weak in the rain. I crouch under my umbrella that won’t open fully and light a couple of incense sticks. I’ve forgotten to bring the incense holder, so I stick the smouldering incense into a banana that was to be my breakfast. I place it on the bench in front of the granite slab and hold the umbrella over it. I close my eyes in an attempt to pray. All I can think of is the angry allergic rash that’s spreading on my legs and hands thanks to the weeds and that the incense smells like a cheap aftershave.

I give up and sit on the bench, still holding the umbrella over the incense. The rain stings my skin like the rash. The hard, wet seat numbs my thighs instantly and a dull arthritic pain blooms in my knees and lower back. I squirm, shifting my weight from one butt cheek to the other. I wait, just as I’ve waited in vain for the last seven years, for the storyteller to show up. The incense is all ash now. I may as well eat the banana and tell you the story of how I met this mysterious man.    

About The Author 

Sumana Khan was born and raised in Bangalore and currently lives in the UK. She is a blogger and a student. Her debut novel was The Revenge of Kaivalya. 

Author website:

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Encounters - Someone's Always Waiting by Sumana Khan

Encounters - Someone's Always Waiting

by Sumana Khan

Giveaway ends December 11, 2015.
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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Adhira Love Lost and Found by Aditti Gaur : A Review


AUTHOR: Aditti Gaur

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9385137136

GENRE: Fiction / Romance


FORMAT: Paperback


HOW I GOT THIS BOOK: I thank the author for this review copy.


What will you choose between your life and death?

Who would you give preference, yourself, your family or your friends?

She achieved everything she wanted. She gave way to who wandered away from their path or had no opportunity by founding a music studio and exploring her own love for music. Her life was perfect until the day her world went upside down. She quietly surrendered to the situations and stood brave for rest of her world. Her friends also wanted her to move on. But then HE arrived. HE was her admirer and the only one, she was comfortable with. Still, she pulled her feet back when love bloomed in her life again instead of indulging into HIS life. So, what troubled her?

That was not the end of her story, but was it the beginning or she just had a pit-stop? Come let’s discover the destination of her story.


I thank the author very much for her consideration - she sent me a paperback, and again, a digital copy, to make my reading experience easy. The book arrived neatly packed, in clear cut handwriting that impressed me very much. The cover page was immediately attractive, though I cannot understand how it fit with the story. The font and paper are readable.


Some protagonists are real life heroes - they are similar to the reader, make mistakes, do good, and are very human. But then there are some protagonists who are the embodiment of goodness - sometimes unrealistic, and way too often vaguely reminding us of someone we might have seen / heard of. Adhira is one such woman. She is a heaven sent angel in disguise, according to the story. It is narrated by Riddhi, Adhira's soul sister and close friend. Adhira is the ultimate definition of a good human being and everyone who sees her truly knows she is praise worthy. But she faces her share of difficulties in life and fate deals her the weak hand, with misfortune affecting her one after the another. Her marriage is a disaster, and she also faces another issue due to a cruel turn of fate. What happens after that forms the rest of the story.

The plot is really great - the difficulties faced by a woman, no matter how good she is. The story had a lot of chance to develop brilliantly from there. Adhira could have been made a bit more realistic and human. Her emotions and desires are well portrayed and her friends are also strong characters. But the narration lacks the force required to convince the reader. It is sometimes alternated between first person referring to the narrator and the character and most often this ends up confusing to the reader. I assume the author has gone for a diary / journal effect to portray a realistic story, but the narrative needs development in many areas.

The typographical errors, though expected in some places, ruin the speed of reading. The story was different, and a different approach could have made all the difference to the narrative. Tense confusions and obvious plot elements missing - with some characters not even spoken about once their appearance is over are all part of the book. Apart from the fact that this book needs a substantial editing, I would suggest the author to write her future projects in a plain third person narrative thereby making it clear and the story much more interesting.

Adhira - could be your favorite book, or not impress you very much, based on your perspective and which aspect of a book you give importance to (the story, the characters, the narration, the editing or the plot).

  • The cover image
  • Title and tag line

  • Needs good editing and proofreading
  • The narration could have been in third person, making it easy to understand the book
  • The plot had great potential - could have been expanded nicely


Adhira can be your most favorite story, if mushy romances are your thing. But it has not got much in it to impress fans of other genres



Aditti Gaur has a past experience of working with a leading DTH company for almost 5-6 years. She started her career right after her schooling, just to become an independent individual. After completing her graduation, she quit her job as she felt that 9 to 6 job was something not meant for her and then she choose her passion for writing & engaged herself in blogging on various sections like Love, Relationships, Lifestyle, etc on her website

She was born in Delhi but her complete upbringing was in Meerut (Uttar Pradesh) and now she resides in Gurgaon. “Adhira…Love; lost & found” is her debut novel. Through this she wants to make her dream of becoming an author come true.


PRICE Rs. 64 for Kindle, Rs. 250 for Paperback


Friday, November 27, 2015

Seeking Redemption by Madhu Vajpayee : A Review

BOOK TITLE: Seeking Redemption

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9384315153

AUTHOR: Madhu Vajpayee

GENRE: Fiction


FORMAT: Digital / PDF



I thank Debdatta D Sahay of b00k r3vi3w tours for this review copy!


Story of a girl Meera, who is unwittingly drawn into a conflict from where she finds it difficult to emerge unscathed. It's her journey from being a simple, medical graduate belonging to a middle class family to the uncharted territories of corruption and caste based politics. Her path is crossed by the two men, both compelling yet completely contrasting characters, who are forever going to change her life. If it is Aman who can challenge her ideals and defy her resolves, and makes her the person she finally becomes, it is Abhay's sublime love which enables her to go through the vicissitudes of life. It's also the story of her loss as well as triumph against her own demons to find her true self.


The cover looked interesting enough and the title was short and clear. But the summary of the book, starting so abruptly, gave me a sense of vagueness. The book seemed like a story of self discovery and growing out of the influence of dominant characters and dormant demons. And by the time I finished reading, my suspicions were confirmed.


Some stories offer much promise in the way they are written. Some stories might have a very short plot, but the development and narration may make them shine. But there are some stories that have the potential to go places but still falter due to inconsistent narration and abrupt loose ends. Meera - typical middle class girl in a household with a silent father, a domineering mother who thinks it is wise to spend a lot on her wayward brother instead of spending on a daughter. While this seems laughable in some advanced societies, it is still a sad reality in many houses these days. 

Meera is a successful MBBS graduate and appears for a PG examination. Her mom is intent on marrying her off to someone. A chance misfortune puts the family in peril and she decides to work rather than study, to support her family. But Meera faces discrimination there too, and somehow gets a job. The character of Meera shouldering the difficulties is portrayed well, but at times shown as too naive for her own good. 

Her friends and extended family are all varied characters, but none of them create much of an impression. The plot veers into a different direction, with Meera and her friends and family being affected by bad political climate. The story progresses from there and follows Meera's life as she takes decisions that sometimes make her delve deeper into the mess and sometimes come out of it, albeit with pain and loss. The premise is good and the prologue very interesting. 

The author had good potential to take it from there, and make the story much more interesting. But from chapter one, it falters in characterisation and story development. The dialogues need grammatical correction and the overall story needs more proofreading. There are many errors in homophones and sometimes the difference in meaning disturbs the understanding of the story. The narrative could also do with a little more organisation to make it more interesting. The climax (where the prologue is explained), seems to be a forced twist. 

Overall, a good plot that could do with a better narrative.

  • The plot - it had huge potential
  • The title

  • The language and narration need lots of improvement
  • The characterisation needs to be a bit more forceful
  • The political climate can be used with better effect

VERDICT: A good story that could go places with better organisation and narrative.



Dr.Madhu Vajpayee- the writer was born somewhere in those hospital corridors where she has spent the last two decades of her life. Witnessing life at such close quarters pushed her to capture its enigma in her words and slowly it became her passion. After writing several scientific papers and chapters in books, this book is her first step in literary world. Having done her graduation, MBBS from King Georges Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow she went ahead to pursue her post- graduation, MD from AIIMS, New Delhi. She was a consultant at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi having been associated with management of patients living with HIV/AIDS. She is now settled in Melbourne, Australia with her family, where she is devoting most of her time to writing, the passion that she couldn’t pursue earlier because of the demands of medical profession and commitment it requires. When not creating stories, Madhu enjoys reading and travelling.


PRICE Rs. 150


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Interview with Sally Allen - author of Unlocking Worlds

Hello, I am Dhivya Balaji from Readers Muse. 

Thank you for taking time to answer my questions. I have been a bibliophile since I was about five years old, and for nearly twenty years now, have read books with a passion. So you could say I connected with your book and the contents. 

My book review blog is a by product of my passion for reading and I have not enjoyed any other book more than I did yours in recent times. I read ‘Unlocking Worlds’ expecting it to be a set of recommendations in each genre (wrong assumption, I know) and was pleasantly surprised to find it was otherwise. 

So once again a huge ‘Thank You’ for writing this book! I have tried to ask a few questions that may have answers in your book already, but please answer only those you are comfortable with. Some of these are for the readers to know your book better.

First, I want to thank you for the very kind words, Dhivya, and for the warm welcome and wonderful questions. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed and found value in reading my book! 

1. What prompted you to write Unlocking Worlds? (Is there a single particular trigger?) 

I had been writing about books and authors for several years for online news websites and my blog. Then a dear friend and fellow book lover asked me when I was going to write a book. The idea hadn’t really occurred to me, but her encouragement and belief in my approach to reading inspired me to write this book. 

2. The book has a really clean approach to listing books and I loved it. How hard was it to limit the number of books listed under each genre? 

Thank you! It’s great to hear that because it was something I worked hard to refine. In the beginning, I actually had many more categories and only five books in each. Looking over them made me realize that many of the categories overlapped, and it made more sense to condense them and include ten books in each. Once I did that, the process became much more fluid, though I did still have to leave out some books that I genuinely enjoyed because there wasn’t necessarily a place for them in the categories I ultimately chose. I like to believe those books will find a place in future projects. :) 

3. As a fellow book lover, I can understand that there are no ‘perfect’ genres. The genre specification is an attempt to classify books. But you have compiled a list of books in some major genres. Why specifically these? 

I would say that’s exactly right: We assign genres to provide readers with direction about what topics or questions a book will explore. That was my intention in categorizing the books as I did. Some of them will be familiar to readers, for example Classic Children’s Books and British Novels. Some may be slightly more esoteric, like Time Travel Novels and Travelers’s Tales. All of the categories I chose represented the subjects I have found rewarding to return to again and again. 

4. I have always thought that a bestseller is a book that has managed to connect with many readers at once, making them praise the book. But nowadays bestsellers have become more about marketing. How much importance do you give to a book’s bestseller tag? 

That’s a great point. Bestsellers are often predetermined based on marketing. I’ve read wonderful books that are, as the saying goes, off the beaten track not necessarily because of their quality but because they’re not the books to which a publishing house committed their marketing budget. When choosing a book to read, I try to pay more attention to how people are talking about it, what they’re saying and how they’re saying it, than whether it’s a bestseller. 

5. Which was one really underrated book that you felt changed you as a reader? 

I really adored Marie-Helene Bertino’s 2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas. It’s beautifully written and uplifting while still acknowledging the hard stuff in life. Critics have received it well, but it’s not a book you hear much about compared to others. It’s a wonderful read. 

6. Which was one overrated book that didn’t impress you much? 

I can’t really think of one that didn’t impress me, though I can think of one that I couldn’t get into, which is David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. I read about ten pages then set it aside. I think the font was too small, so I might have to try it on my e-reader. :) 

7. Have you shied away from any genres? Is there a particular genre of books you avoid reading? 

I try to be adventurous as a reader and try new things, but I have to say that, in terms of genre, horror and erotica are two that I’m not drawn to read. In terms of content, I favor books that are uplifting, that give me hope in our capacity for good, so I gravitate toward books that fall into that category. 

8. If I were to ask you to pick your top three favourite books of all time what would they be? (Difficult to point out, I know. But you could try). 

That is always such a hard question for book lovers, isn’t it? We keep reading new books, so the list changes. At the moment, I would say Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling. 

9. Was there a particular author who you favoured reading in your childhood? How has your perception towards the same author changed now? (or remained same). 

I really loved Francis Hodgson Burnett as a child, both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. As an adult, I still appreciate her for her wonderful characters and stories, but I also understand more about the era she was writing in and how that is reflected in her ideas. 

10. Which is the most dog eared copy in your bookshelf? 

I have an edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire that looks like it’s about a hundred years old. The cover is falling off and the pages are stained worn thin. 

11. I know it is every bookworm’s habit, but have you purchased more books than you could read? 

Oh my goodness, yes. I can safely say I have enough reading material to last a lifetime, even if I never buy another book for the rest of my days. I can also safely say that I will carry on buying new books. :) 

12. Have you ever been put off by the font and typeset in a book while reading it? 

Most definitely font size is an issue for me because I have weak eyes. I recently purchased a copy of The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens and had to return it. The font was so tiny that I could not concentrate on the story. The only way I can read this book is on my e-reader because none of the editions I’ve found have large enough print to accommodate me. So thank goodness for my e-reader!

13. How much do you think illustrations help in the understanding of the book? (I really loved those in your book. So I was curious as to why you decided to add them) 

This is a wonderful question. I love illustrated books. Looking at images gives us another entry point into the material, another way of experiencing it. I also love how images give us a resting space between words, which gives us time to digest and reflect. I wasn’t sure I would include images until I saw the ones the artist I worked with created. I found myself identifying with them and wanting to linger over them. I’m so glad you enjoyed them as well! 

14. Why this title and book cover? (Both are my favourites!) 

Thank you! I had such a difficult time figuring out a title. A friend of mine suggested “Unlocking the World,” but this didn’t seem quite right since I’m talking about the many worlds we enter through books. So there was my title: Unlocking Worlds, which is what I feel happens when I read great books. The cover was done by the same artist who did the interior illustrations, and I give all credit to her for coming up with the concept.

Some Quick Fire Questions 

• Most recent additions to your bookshelf? 

Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures by John Granger 

The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne by Catherine Reef 

The Annotated Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Annotated and Edited with an Introduction by David M. Shapard

• One book you will always want to have in your bookshelf, no matter how many times you rearrange and put old books away? 

Slouching Toward Bethelehem by Joan Didion. It’s my favorite essay collection of all time and always inspires me to think and write.

• A book you purchased a long time back but never found the time / inclination to read?

The End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson. Someday, I will get to this novel! 

• The best book gift you have received? 

Recently, a dear friend gave me three very old editions of Charles Dickens novels she found at her library’s book sale. I keep them front and center on my desk for inspiration. 

• A book that you had low expectations for but that which pleasantly surprised you? 

Here We Go Again by Jen Lancaster. I knew Lancaster mostly as a memoirist, so I didn’t know what to expect from her fiction. Here We Go Again was very fun and clever, and the ending made me laugh out loud. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 

• Your best reading position? (I loved your descriptions about always having a book in hand so you could read everywhere – but still there must be one environment you prefer) 

My favorite reading environment is on an airplace. This may sound oddly specific, but I absolutely love reading on airplanes, especially at night. I never have to worry about hearing my internal voice nagging me that I should be doing something else, like laundry or dishes. :)

• One literary character you would love to have as a companion in case you are to go on an adventure. 

Oh, there are so many! I might like to have Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series because she is very resourceful. I also love Hamish Macbeth from M. C. Beaton’s murder mystery series. He seems like he’d be great fun to have on an adventure. 

• Your all time favourite author? 

Another impossible question! :) For novels, I would say my favorite from the past is Charles Dickens and from the present is Haruki Murakami. 

• Do you prefer series books or standalones? 

Hmmm, that’s a difficult one. I’m not sure if I have a preference. I do love a good series, like 44 Scotland Street, the Hamish Macbeth murder mysteries, and Harry Potter. But I’m happy to read a great standalone book as well. 

• Your favourite series books? 

Harry Potter. It’s brilliant on so many levels, and I find something new each time I reread it. 

• Do you place importance to book covers? (different editions have different covers and some people are particular about the cover and edition they read) 

That’s an interesting question! I do love a beautiful book cover and have bought books because of their cover art. On the other hand, I can’t think of a book that I declined to purchase because I didn’t like the cover. 

Thanks once again for patiently answering all my questions!:) 

Thank you for such a thoughtful and thought-provoking questions and for your kind words about my book! 


Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.

Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers by Sally Allen

BOOK TITLE: Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0983644613

AUTHOR: Sally Allen

GENRE: Adult non-fiction / Books and reading

NUMBER OF PAGES: 225 pages

FORMAT: Paperback



I thank Laura Fabiani of iRead book tours for this review copy! Thanks, Laura. This is a very treasured copy.


Award-winning writer and teacher Sally Allen knows that good books don’t just draw us in; they talk to us, shape us, and transport us to times, places, and minds different from our own. In Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers, Allen deftly weaves personal stories with fifteen thematized, annotated, and illustrated reading lists for what to read next. By sharing some of the treasures in her library and the secret lives they reveal, she gives us permission to embrace the shameless book lover inside each of us. Unlocking Worlds is a testament to how reading passionately—and compassionately—can unlock the world beyond our back yard. Celebrating books and those who read them, Allen shows how the solitary act of reading can be a powerful thread that creates community and connection. Thought-provoking and eloquent, Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers is a must-have for anyone who can’t leave the house without a book in hand.


When I got the paperback in my hands, from the first sight, I was impressed by this book. The cover was clean, colorful and the title very apt. 'Unlocking Worlds' (and the author has given a beautiful explanation for it in her interview for us) is a book that will unlock many worlds for every reader. The printing and illustrations are excellent, even for the ARC I was provided with. The overall chapter placement was brilliant too.


'Unlocking Worlds' is a book I would have to keep at the top of my bookshelf, always visible, always just in my reach. It is , in simple words, a reading companion. But I do not think it is limited to Book Lovers alone. It has the potential to make even those who don't prefer books take up and read them. The author, Sally Allen, has been a bookworm since her childhood (and she does tell us about this in a very well worded introduction) and uses her long years of experience with books to compile a very organised and neat book about books. 

Books are, in my opinion, portals to exciting worlds of adventure and information. Any book lover will not feel bored or alone in any circumstance if they have a book in hand to read. Sally Allen has so generously given us a few worthy lists of books she has enjoyed over the years, and with them she has done every book lover a favor. All those who love books and are mostly found in the very unexpected of places with a book in hand, will relate to, and appreciate the words the author has shared with us. 

A peek into a book lover's shelf would always be exciting, and the simple joy in finding about more books that maybe made an impression on someone else who appreciates it is a pleasure. Which is why this book is a treasure trove. It is a distilled version of the bookshelf of a bookworm, where she has carefully handpicked the books that she loved and those that made an impact on her. You may find books that you already know about, books that you never even knew existed, and those under appreciated books that you might have loved and not found anyone to discuss it with. 

The contents are organised, with clear genre specifications (a feat unto itself, because it has never been easy to classify books under particular genres) and has a simple but alluring synopsis about what to expect from each book, not the one that is given in the respective covers, but one that comes from the author's personal experiences with the book. The language, not surprisingly, is great and the style in which the overall contents are presented is also clear and detailed. The book taught me, in addition to other things, how exactly a review should be. It must give enough information to entice the reader, while not revealing any spoilers, and still manage to bring out the best and worst of the books. 

Unlocking Worlds is a great reading companion - an index for good books and a book that would be consulted often to know about more amazing books. 

  • The title, cover page and the concept
  • The illustrations, both on the cover page and inside the book. They add variety to the content, and make it much more interesting
  • The organisation of the book, in different genres. It looks clean and can be referred to at convenience and not necessarily in a linear order
  • There is not a thing I would change about this book - except maybe add more of it!

A must have for every book lover. And even if you are not, this would very well make you one! A must have either way.



Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.


PRICE $6.00 for Kindle, $14.99 for Paperback


Spotlight: Shanti and the Magic Mandala by F. T. Camargo

About the Book:

Shanti and the Magic Mandala is an adventure in which fantasy and reality are mingled. The book tells the story of six teenagers, from different religious and cultural origins and different parts of the world, who are mystically recruited to form two groups - one in the Northern Hemisphere, and one in the Southern. They eventually gather in Peru, and through a single alliance, begin a frantic chase for the sacred object that can stop the black magician's final plan.

Read an Excerpt:

Shanti was the first to smell the smoke. She paused in her frantic packing. “Do you smell something burning?”

“Yes, I do,” Lelê said, worried.
It was getting noticeably hotter in the room. “Look, there’s smoke coming in under the door!” Antônio cried. Black smoke was slowly seeping beneath the door and into the room. Lelê ran to the window.
“The door won’t open,” Shanti said, struggling with the lock.
“Neither will the window.” Lelê was close to tears.
“Let me try, Shanti.” Antônio grasped the doorknob, applying his strength to it. Even as he fought with the lock, the smoke and the heat were rising.”
“They did it. We're stuck in here,” Helena said, coughing.
Antônio hammered on the wall. “Nasir! Itai! Tadao! Help us!”
“They want to kill us,” Lelê cried, shaking with fear.
Looking intently at Helena, her voice ringing with determination, Shanti declared, “But we’re not going to let them succeed!”
“Get away from the door,” Antônio said, kicking at it.
Hearing Antônio's call for help, Nasir and Itai had rushed to the door, only to find it locked. Tadao tried the window. “It won’t open,” he said, fearful. “The window's locked.”
“We can’t get out. What’s happening?” Nasir said, with an edge of panic.
“It’s black magic,” Itai said, trying to help Nasir break down the door.
Just then, an image of the book came into his mind. He ran over to his backpack, still on top of his bed and upended it shaking everything out.
Suddenly there was a loud noise, like an explosion — the door swung open. Flames and gouts of heavy, black smoke poured into the room. The whole hallway was on fire.
Tadao pushed at the window again, but it defied his efforts to open it.
Itai reached for his book. It was illuminated once again. He stood up and held the book with both hands, opening it. A bright light shone forth from the page it had opened on and he saw another name, formed with three Hebrew letters. Seitel, another of the 72 names of God. Itai knew that the Angel Seitel was able to create a protective shield. He closed his eyes, forming an urgent prayer, reaching out to connect with the angel, shutting out the mayhem around him for a few moments. Opening his eyes he gazed at the three letters from right to left for a few more precious seconds. Then he closed the book, replaced everything else in the backpack and hoisted it on his back. He picked up the book, holding it in his right hand. “Grab your backpacks and follow me.”
Nasir stared at him with an expression that clearly showed concern for his sanity “Itai?”
“Follow me,” Itai repeated with certainty.
“What? What do you mean?” Tadao almost shouted.
Nasir took his backpack and positioned himself behind Itai. “May Allah protect us!”
Watching Nasir, Tadao did the same. Itai took the closed book in both hands, pointing it towards the fire, as they approached the door. The book emitted an increasingly intense light. Gradually, a large shield began to form, surrounding the three boys.
“Wow! It's a light vehicle, a merkaba!” Nasir said, reverently, his gaze locked on the intense white light of the forming shield.
“Incredible!” Tadao said, forming his own silent prayer, Thank you, Lord Buddha.
Steadfastly Itai moved towards the door now engulfed by large flames. He advanced out of the room, into the hallway, the light shield in front of him, and as he moved, he created a clear path, the shield pushing away the flames, heat and smoke. He stopped in front of Shanti’s bedroom door. The wood was charred and blackened and the ancient lock had popped free, leaving the door swinging brokenly. Their friends had crowded at the back of the room, near the window, trying to get away from the thick, choking smoke. “Grab your backpacks! Get behind Nasir and Tadao!” Itai shouted.
“We’re coming!” Antônio said, grabbing his backpack and walking swiftly towards the door.
Lord Ganesha, please open those paths, Shanti prayed, putting all of her faith into the prayer.
Within moments, the three were in place. The light shield began to grow sideways, eventually forming a large cube of light, protecting all of them. They crossed the hall, safe from the flames. As they went down the stairs, they heard the roof collapsing behind them. The reception area had been completely destroyed by fire, but again they passed through the devastation completely shielded from the heat and flames. They reached the door leading to the outside. Itai wasted no time in pulling it open and they poured out of the burning building.
As soon as the last one of them stepped onto the street, the old pension began to collapse, turning into a huge bonfire.

About the Author:
F. T. Camargo is an Italian Brazilian living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An award winning architect and author, he also studied Arts and Media and has a post degree in Economics and MBA in e-commerce. He is a vegetarian because of his love for all animals and has been deeply involved in causes for their protection and freedom. He is a world traveler adventurer, outdoor sports lover, speaks 4 languages and has published a travel book “Rio, Maravilha!”
For many years he has been practicing yoga and meditation and studying the Kabbalah. His exploration of spiritual teachings motivated a commitment to self-development which in turn created a new path and goal in life. Shanti and the Magic Mandala was born from his inner journey.

Contact the Author:

Awards & Recognition for the Book:
- Winner of 2014 London Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
- 2014 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards: Bronze Medal at “Young Adult Fiction – Spirituality” category
- 2014 New England Book Festival in Boston:  Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”.
- Winner of 2015 Paris Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
- Winner of 2015 International Book Awards in the category “Fiction / Young Adult”.
- Winner of 2015 New York Book Festival in the category “Young Adult”.
- 2015 Los Angeles Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”.
- 2015 San Francisco Book Festival – Runner-up in the category “Young Adult”.
- 2015 DIY Book Festival in Los Angeles: Honorable Mention in the category “Young Adult”.

Check out the Cover Reveal Event

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Spotlight! Michael's Mystery The Nations of Peace by Linze Brandon

*** BOOK  TOUR ***

It was time for the Lords of the High Council to step in when the Grandmaster of Kryane is accused of murdering his own people. They had little choice but to prevent the collapse of the whole magicians order, so they sent Michael to investigate the allegations.
The people of the desert planet were an enigma, but none more than Andesine, the healer assigned to assist Michael. Why did she report the Grandmaster? Was she involved, or was there something more sinister going on?
The more people they interrogated the more they suspected that nothing was as it seemed. Not the murders, nor the Grandmasters' motive as everyone thought.
Unable to resist the growing attraction between them, Michael and Andesine learn that they had to trust each other with their own secrets, and risking any future they might have.
Time and again the High Lords had to step in to prevent chaos on Kryane, but time was running out for Michael and Andesine. They had to get a new Grandmaster in place before the Kryane Order collapsed completely. And they had to find the who the true culprit was.
Fortunate to escape an attack from this monster once, they were risking the lives of many others in the process. Before the High Lords could formulate a plan, Michael and Andesine were captured, leaving the High Lords helpless to prevent it.
Kidnapped and imprisoned, Andesine was confronted with the realisation that if they were to survive their ordeal, it was up to her and her long suppressed powers. But as a healer she saved lives, would she be able to destroy the monster before he forces her to unleash her power to destroy the future of mankind?

About the Author:
Teaching herself to read before she went to school, it was the start of her life long love affair with books. Trained as an engineer, Linzé has worked as an export consultant and is presently a project manager. Although she still loves to read, she also enjoys counted stitch embroidery, archery, tai chi, fly fishing, painting, her husband's medal winning photographs and watching Manchester United play.

She counts both novels and short stories to her publishing credit. Her fourth novel, Waiting for Adrian, is planned for publication early in 2016. Her story, The Vernal Equinox, was a finalist in a sci-fi flash-fiction competition in 2015.

Linzé Brandon lives in Pretoria, South Africa, with her engineer husband and German Shepherds who are convinced that the world revolves only around them.

Follow Linzé Online:

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

You Are The Best Wife by Ajay K Pandey : A Review

BOOK TITLE: You Are The Best Wife

ISBN/ASIN: 978-9382665540

AUTHOR: Ajay K Pandey

GENRE: Non Fiction


FORMAT: Paperback



I thank Sandeep Sharma and Tushti Bhatia of Author Paradise for this review copy. 


Ajay believes in living for himself; Bhavna teaches him to live for others. Ajay is a planner for life; Bhavna makes him live in every moment. You are the Best Wife is a story of two people with contradictory ideologies who fall in love. It changes them for good. It changes the way they look at the world and the way the world looks at them. Until destiny reveals its plans. This is a true inspiring story of the author and his struggle with life, after his beloved wife left him halfway through their journey. But her last words, ‘you are the best husband’ gave him the strength to live on, and fulfil his promise of love. Told with frankness and doses of humor, this heart-warming tale of a boy and a girl who never gave up on their love in face of adversities, ends on a bittersweet and poignant note as Ajay comes to terms with the biggest lesson life has to offer. 


You are the Best Wife - a title that can sound both moving and cheeky. I took one look at the cover and loved the symbolic nature of that. The cover has been beautifully split into three parts - the top most part having the image of a couple and an overimposed graph of a heart beat. I aptly assumed that this part signified the author's life and his memories with his loving wife. The middle part, the title, is written in a simple, straightforward font and as I would later know, just like the tone of the book. The third part, the image of writing and a pen, symbolised, at least to me, that the author had wanted to show via this cover that he decided to write down his life experiences with his loving wife and the story in the middle is the connection. 

Maybe I am reading too much into the cover image, but this is one of the most relevant cover images I have known in recent times, and the reader in me couldn't help but rejoice at it. The book was printed on normal inexpensive paper in usual font. But that is not a deterrant in reading this amazing story. 


You are the Best Wife - a heartfelt, true story of a couple in love. True stories cannot be reviewed and rated like normal ones - this is why I shy away from the Non Fiction genre. Truth sometimes can be stranger and much more beautiful can whatever fiction our imagination might come up with. Truth can be fascinating and also liberating. And this is a book by a husband who love(d) his wife and continues to fondly recollect the time he spent with his loving wife. Every one has different ways to express pain, loss and grief. Some do it by moping, some do it by moving on with difficulty. And then there are others who show it by writing them down as books and forever immortalising the person and the love. Ajay K Pandey has poured out his heart, no doubt. But since he has written it as a book and published it, and I am obliged to review the book, not the story. So the following review is for the book, not the content. 

The writing style was simple, straightforward and lacked all the extra elements required in fiction. While this was not a deal breaker for me, there are a few points I would have to mention. The story is heartfelt. The author speaks of his love, his struggles to get married to the love of his life and the subsequent happy married life. He speaks of the shock, the pain and the loss, too, of losing a loved one. It is wrong to call this a 'story'. It is his life experiences and he has done justice to it yet kept it decent. 

The story will strike a chord with you if you enjoy those tales that speak of love, loss and family in a raw manner. While I am not concentrating on the 'plot' or 'story' as such, I still have a few comments to give about the book. The writing has a few errors - most probably they would be forgotten in the emotional pull of the narrative. The language is simple but not very memorable. The characters are well formed, and the author has tried to bring those real life incidents into a colorful canvas. But the reviewer in me could not deny that the fictitious elements that would make it a racy read are absent. The story is from the heart, uncooked and raw. A tale of love and living after loss. 

  • The heartfelt emotions
  • Thankful absence of butterfly college romance
  • The fact that proceeds from this book would go to a foundation
  • Lacks the flavour required from fiction
  • Is basically a tale of love - so fans of other genre would probably not find it alluring
  • The language could have been a bit more better. There are places where the author has clearly struggled to form sentences. Maybe because of the emotional turmoil in penning down life events, but still, as a book, taht point would be noted

If you love romances, love stories from the heart, this is the book for you. Fans of other genres will find little to interest them in here. Good attempt by a husband to immortalise his wife's memories

RATING: 3.6/5


Ajay K Pandey grew up in the modest NTPC township of Rihand Nagar with big dreams. He studied Engineering in Electronics at the IERT (Allahabad) and MBA at IIMM (Pune) before taking up a job in corporate firm. He is currently working with Cognizant, Pune. He grew up with a dream of becoming a teacher, but destiny landed him in the IT field. Travelling, trekking and reading novels are his hobbies. Travelling to different places has taught him about different cultures and people, and makes him wonder how despite all the differences, there is a bond that unites them. Trekking always inspires him to deal with challenges like a sport. Reading is perhaps what makes him feel alive. You are the Best Wife is his debut book based on his life events and lessons. 


PRICE Rs. 140 for paperback, Free on Kindle Unlimited